Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sugar, and other festivals...

I've a column in today's Canberra Times, 'Substituting the festival victuals for more of those rituals'.

I'm discussing the sugar overload of Halloween, and suggesting that we might do better next year.  A sample:
Traditionally, festivals have various contributions to life: fun, psychological catharsis, building and maintaining community, reaffirming philosophical or religious beliefs, and dealing with difficult psychological and existential issues.

Nowadays, our mass festivals have the first three to varying degrees, but few of the last two. The absence of religious beliefs is not necessarily a problem, though it makes for an odd fit with the remaining religious seasons, like Christmas and Easter – we have the names and symbols, but none of the faith. In fact, the absence of religious community is an opportunity: for innovations. We might have our own secular festivals, which better fit with our lifestyles, philosophies and – particularly in Australia – our own seasons.

This is why festivals like Halloween, Easter and Christmas can be a let down – and why my family has tried to creatively revise the ‘big days’. With the slow erosion of religious faith, they remain largely shallow or anticlimactic affairs. With God removed, contemporary secularists might have created their own celebrations, rites, symbols. Instead, we often have booze-addled or sugar-hyped get-togethers, which do little to recognise the vicissitudes and mysteries of life: birth, death, ageing, love, loss, and so on. Plenty of victuals, none of the rituals. 
Next year, I will work even harder at this spring festival: to make it our own.
(Photo: KTK 895)

1 comment:

Melita said...

I agree that the meaningful aspects of many of these festivals are being diluted or are disappearing. This year I made a special effort to try and discuss with my children what Halloween is about, apart from dressing up and collecting sweets. We talked about death; our elderly neighbour recently died, so we talked about him and remembered him. We talked about how everything and everyones dies. I think they enjoyed having this conversation in the context of Halloween. It made it more meaningful, and I think it did provide a "psychological catharsis". Our family is also struggling to bring meaning to festivals such as Christmas and Easter as we don't observe religious traditions. Christmas is our next challenge.